For 10 years Emma struggled with constipation, swelling, bloating and crippling stomach pains – all associated with a prolapsed bowel.

After years thinking there was nothing to be done, finally, doctors diagnosed a prolapsed bowel when she was 34.

For about 8 to 10 years I was misdiagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You know your own body, don’t you, and I knew something else wasn’t right.

“From my mid-twenties I’d been in a lot of pain with stomach cramps and severe constipation – that’s how it started. Doctors and Hospital Dieticians recommended lots of things to help the constipation and I did everything I was told to try to get some sort of normality back.

“I had every over-the-counter drug going, I changed my diet to high-fibre, then was told to change it to low-fibre, increased the amount of water I drank and I already did lots of exercise.

“After two years and lots more tests I was found to be lactose intolerant. A new diet helped for a while, but pretty soon afterwards things reverted to the way they’d been before: severe cramps especially after eating, swelling and pain.

“It got to the point where I was stressed, upset, and saw no way to improve the feeing of total despair. I was referred to a specialist in Irritable Bowel Syndrome who said it was in my mind and I just had to live with it!

“That’s when I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t go on like this. It was destroying my life. For nearly 10 years I’d been in pain and depressive discomfort and had been on all types of medication.

The condition took over Emma's life

"I was very wary of going out for meals for fear of getting poorly.

"I lost lots of weight due to changing my diet and being frightened of eating potential trigger foods.

“I thought there had to be more to all this than a food intolerance. So I decided to try to find someone to help me myself.

“I Googled ‘lactose and IBS specialist’. I found someone who was more than happy to see me with a GP referral which I got asap, then waited for an appointment with a gastroenterologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

“He sent me for a scan and discovered I had a prolapsed bowel. After all this time I finally had a diagnosis. I felt a mixture of relief and fear of what might lie ahead.

“What followed were two operations in 2010, 2012 and then in 2014, when I was probably at my worst with the illness and suffering, I had major surgery during which more than 1ft of my bowel was removed.    

            Bowel specialists and consultants were absolutely brilliant

The consultants, specialists and treatment that I received couldn’t have been better, they were absolutely brilliant.

“I’m now a lot better than I was. I’m on no medication at all which is fantastic after what I was on for years. I’m a bit braver about trying new foods and attempting to reintroduce slowly. I know that there are certain foods and food groups I can’t eat, and that I’ll never feel 100 per cent comfy eating out, but if there are a few foods that are off the menu, it’s not the end of the world because my health is so much better now.

"I still have pain but not as much, and I’ve got a lot more energy. There are good days and bad days but the balance has changed positively.

"I don’t want my condition to define me. I lost a lot of my personality because being ill for so long was so draining and the feeling that no one understood me or could help me was so depressing.

“The stress had a huge effect on my job as a secondary school teacher. I had a career change not long after my second operation and now I’m very happy as a fitness instructor and swimming teacher.

I feel that for the past 13 years I have been controlled by my stomach and I want to rise above it. I’m trying to regain the upper hand in this battle and I won’t let it beat me.

“The fantastic unconditional and unrepayable support I’ve had from my mum and best friend has made me to get to where I am today, and a few others close to me have helped me get back on track too.

“I’d like others to know that there is help out there: never feel like you are stuck in the cycle of pain and discomfort with no light at the end of the tunnel. Talk to those close to you, follow what you feel and push to seek the help that is out there. Don’t be embarrassed – no one knows your own body better than you.

If anyone is out there thinking: ‘Am I stuck with this for life?’ The answer is no, you’re not.

Emma recently competed in the FINA Masters championships in Budapest even finishing in the top 10 for 200m Breastroke! You can read about her time at the championships HERE.

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